Radio commercials were my first love, and one of the first things I did in my very long career as a voiceover actor. I started out in a radio station, and continued to work in radio for a whole decade and loved it even more than T.V. To this day, I maintain that strong connection to radio voice over. There’s an intimacy to radio; it feels like someone is talking to you in a way that’s just so simple yet beautiful that you can’t help but get under your skin.
The Power of Persuasion
One of the things that I love most about voicing ads for radio is the power of persuasion. It’s all in the voice and a little bit of music. Beyond the message, it’s a performance; it’s called voice acting for a reason. The vocalization, the tonality, the delivery, and all of the delicious nuances are invaluable resources that a voiceover artist brings to the table.
Women in Radio Voice Over
When I first began over 30 years ago, female voice actors were not hired anywhere near as much as men for radio commercials. We were hired mostly as characters for female-related products where the obvious consumer was a woman. Female clothing stores, baby products, cleaning supplies – sometimes grocery stores, and even the occasional pharmacy. Over the last 20 to 30 years, this has definitely changed and women have gotten from just pink products, into pretty much everything.
One of the last holdouts has been the automotive industry, but in the last five years, they’ve begun to hire an increasing number of female voice actors for cars and automotive products.
Radio Voice Over Rates
In terms of radio voiceover rates, rates for radio commercials are generally structured based on the same kinds of criteria television ads follow. It’s all about the length of time. Usually, we look at them in 13 weeks cycles based on equity rates set by institutions like SAG and ACTRA. In tandem with union rates, the 13-week cycle is generally the smallest unit of measurement for a voice actor rate.
Union Rates and Non-Union Rates
For union radio commercials, the usage length is usually calculated beforehand. If the client is familiar with the medium, they already know how much media to buy. They can sort out rates and usage lengths from the get-go and either pay it upfront, on a quarterly basis or renew the contract on a quarterly basis. For non-union work, the length of usage time is sorted out and calculated ahead of the project.
How Population Factors into Rates
The other factor is population. How big is the city or town and how many people are going to be hearing it; you need to have a different set of rates for each type of population. A local commercial that’ll be heard by less than 100,000 people is considered a small population versus a regional commercial for a medium population of between 100,000 and a million people.
Finally, any place with over a million people is usually considered a major market. Places like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles are all considered mass major markets and command the highest voiceover rates.
The Best 3 Places to Find Great Radio Voice Over Talent
There are a lot of places to find voice over talent for radio, but we’re going to focus on my top three. You can usually uncover great voice over talents online by doing a keyword search, but you can also go through agents or agencies and pay-to-play sites like CastVoices and Voice123, who cast for voice actors specifically.
What a Great Voice Over Talent Brings to Your Radio Ad
Every voice talent is different and has something unique to bring to the table. Some will reinterpret your script to deliver it more effectively to the target audience, and others are great at making unique sounds or voices; I happen to offer a complete radio commercial production service.
As well as being hired on as a voiceover actor, I provide a start to finish production service for your radio ad with a full team. I work with an award-winning sound engineer, have a multitude of effects at my disposal, and have won quite a few awards of my own over my lengthy career as a voice over talent. All you have to do is send me your script, and I’ll voice it, source (and license) the music, and produce the entire radio commercial for you.
Great article, Kim! I started in radio – and am happy to hear a lot more female voices these days! It adds a more emotional/connected feeling 🙂
Kim Handysides says
Thanks Jessica! Agreed – it’s that whole “if she can see it, she can be it” thing – except with out ears 🙂